Awareness Sunday – what is it we need to be aware of?
There is an audio recording of this message
The stimulus that provoked a number of people to start the initiative that has become Awareness Sunday is that today is the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks which flew airliners of passengers into buildings in the USA. This was violence in the name of an ideology; anger sourced in a system of beliefs; terror in the name of a “jihad” a holy war by radical Islam against the imperialism of the “Christian” USA.
In other words – violence in the name of religion.
Violence in the name of religion is not new, it has long, long historical roots; but we do not have time to trace these today. Instead I want to turn quickly to the teachings of Jesus -
In John 10:10 Jesus said: “the thief comes only to steal, kill or destroy; but I have come that people can have life, and life in all it’s fullness.”
What was Jesus talking about? I believe He was reflecting upon what He saw going on in society all around Him, and we can do the same.
It does not seem to matter what kind of government (I mean which political party hold sway) we have, what the economic situation is (boom or bust!), what values are being pursued in our society; over the last 3 decades at least (and I suspect over a much longer period, given that Jesus was speaking in around 30 AD!) there has been a consistent theme: society has become gradually more and more fragmented.
It seems to me that as time goes by the forces dividing one person from another, one community from another, one nation from another have grown. This is in spite of many good people looking into ways to unite communities, regions etc. A big picture example is that the current economic downturn and banking crisis has almost brought down the European Community; and certainly the cracks in alliances between near neighbours in Europe seem to be widening as the economic pressure grows.
So, going back to John’s Gospel as we quoted from earlier: if Jesus has come to unify, to build up, to give to His followers life in all of it’s fullness we are probably left with some questions (or at least I am).
(i) Who is the thief that Jesus was talking about?
(ii) What is going on today?
(iii) Is there anything I can do about it?
Let me share with you what I believe, and by all means come and question me further afterwards if you are not sure or if you disagree!!
(i) The thief that Jesus spoke about has been the enemy of humanity going back into the Garden of Eden, he has gone by many names through the course of time, but the most well known name is the devil.
(ii) The situation today, as it was in Jesus’ time is that there is a secret war being waged. This war is between the devil and God with mankind caught in the middle, and needing to make a decision regarding on which side of the argument he or she is going to stand. This war was essentially over 2,000 years ago when Jesus, God’s only Son, willingly went to the cross to die on our behalf and three days later was raised from the dead; but the battle will go on until Jesus returns.
(iii) As a Christian I believe I have a part to play in my life in demonstrating God’s love for mankind and breaking down the barriers of division between people.
I now want to spend a few moments looking at this role that I believe Christians should play.
We must recognize that we live in a divided society; a fractured society in which each group, each community is set against other groups, other communities. The issues between communities are not easily resolved, they are contentious and in almost every case the issues of right and wrong are complex, with both sides of the argument in the wrong on at least some points.
We must recognize that these issues are not just far away (Israel; Egypt; Syria; Libya; etc.) or even at arms’ length (riots in London) but are right on our doorstep – the illegal travellers’ community at Dale Farm.
It is really important that we learn what God thinks and feels about the issues around us. From that awareness it is then critical that we go the next step and consider what our role, both individually and as a church community should be in dealing with these issues.
To conclude, the Bible does not tell us what to do in each situation that we face; but it does give us a blueprint of the kind of people that God has called us to be; and the basis from which we can make the decisions about the situations. So let me leave you with a challenge from the Bible regarding the Christian perspective: 2 Corinthians 5 The Message.